The Westland District Council's property company says it has
a ''memorandum of understanding'' with overseas financiers to
build a $220 million road between Haast and Hollyford. Mark
Price went to Jackson Bay to find out whether such a road
would be welcomed.
There is already a road south from Jackson Bay.
It is narrow and winding and stops at a locked gate about
20km from the coast.
But if the Westland District Property Company has its way,
the road will be extended another 160km, to the Hollyford
Valley near Milford Sound.
The expectation is that the road - a toll road - would lead
more tourists to the West Coast.
That will put little-known settlements like Haast Beach,
Okuru, Hannah's Clearing, Neil's Beach and Waitoto firmly on
the tourist trail.
And, as the Otago Daily Times found out earlier this month,
the residents of these places are in two minds about that.
There are those who see the economic opportunities while
others are perfectly happy with the way things are.
As well, there are concerns about whether the infrastructure
of Jackson Bay, or Open Bay, as Captain Cook named it, can
cope with a heavy stream of tourists.
Jackson Bay stretches for more than 20km with houses and
settlements tucked away in the bush - front lawns adorned
with cray pots, boats, tractors, utes, old caravans and
interesting pieces of driftwood.
Hannahs Clearing is one of those settlements - about 30
houses straddling the road between Haast and the Jackson Bay
It is home to jet-boat driver Vicki Cain, who would
''probably say against'' the road.
She is concerned about having more tourist traffic speeding
past her front door, does not think tourists would stop at
Hannahs Clearing and says tourism will not boost property
Ms Cain said the value of the settlement's houses had
''absolutely exploded'' over the last 10 years as Queenstown,
Wanaka and Alexandra people ''discovered that, hello, we've
got this paradise in our back yard''.
''The fishing out there is absolutely incredible,
whitebaiting at your fingertips, trout fishing, deer hunting
at your fingertips.
''You literally walk out into the bush and it's your
Her neighbour, Daryl Hewer, is on the other side of the
fence. He was also born at Hannah's Clearing and is
He believes the road has the potential to create jobs and
attract more young families to the settlement, which would
help support the school.
Hannahs Clearing was once known as Carter's Mill and the
primary school had 120 pupils.
The mill closed in the 1970s and now the school's roll is 21.
Sole fulltime teacher Liz Hawker sees a need for more jobs to
attract the young people of the area back after they have
been away to boarding school.
But she is also concerned about the environmental impact of
more tourism and is also worried about safety issues to do
with the road.
The state of the sealed, council-owned road around Jackson
Bay is a thorny issue.
A resident of Neils Beach, who did not want to be named, said
a lot of money would need to be spent on it to cope with the
increased tourist traffic.
As well, the Turnbull River hydro-electricity system that
generates Jackson Bay's electricity is already working at
maximum capacity and cannot easily be upgraded.
And as for tourist accommodation, there is sufficient for the
influx of whitebaiters but nothing to rival other South
Island tourist towns.
And he warns that while Jackson Bay might face the problem of
having to expand to cope with more tourists, places like
Queenstown and Wanaka could have the opposite problem.
Getting away from the ''rat race'' drew Allan Meikle to
Hannahs Clearing from Invercargill 15 years ago.
He has been living off an invalid's benefit ever since being
involved in a serious crash with a tourist who was on the
wrong side of the road.
Despite that, he is all for the new tourist road so tourists
get to see more of the country and locals get more job
And, he jokes, the tourists will provide the sandflies with a
fresh source of blood.